Federer ranked No. 1 but Becker says Nadal is world's top male tennis player
TORONTO — Roger Federer has the world No. 1 ranking but there's no doubt in Boris Becker's mind who's the best player in men's tennis.
That distinction, Becker contends, belongs to Spain's Rafael Nadal, who is ranked second behind Federer despite having beaten the Swiss star in both the French Open and Wimbledon finals this year.
"Obviously in the world rankings there is still a No. 1 called Federer," Becker said Monday during a news conference at the Rogers Cup. "But I think if you talk to anybody in the world of tennis who is considered for now the No. 1 player in the world, it's the winner of the French Open and Wimbledon.
"I think there's a change in the position at the moment."
Becker, 40, faced Toronto's Daniel Nestor in a one-set exhibition match Monday evening, won 6-3 by the Canadian. Afterwards, he was formally inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame.
"I'm very very proud and honoured," Becker said. "It's one of the biggest tournaments in the world.
"I practised and was in good shape but that's not what this day was about. It's about celebration . . . it's not about the result."
Nadal and Federer combined to make plenty of decent backhands and serves in this year's men's final at Wimbledon. Nadal captured the grass tournament's championship with an epic five-set rain-interrupted thriller against Nadal that required more than four hours to complete. Many tennis pundits have called the match the best-ever in the men's game.
Nadal, 22, became the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon titles back-to-back.
Becker says while Federer remains one of the sport's elite players, Nadal has simply overtaken the Swiss star.
"I think it's a case where Nadal has just improved to a level that nobody expected," he said. "Federer is playing as good as always.
"But you can only give credit to Nadal for really raising his game to another level and winning."
Becker believes tennis needs rivalries like that of Federer and Nadal.
"Tennis needs players that bring out the best in each other," he said. "Tennis is in a good place right now having Federer and Nadal really at the very top of their careers.
"Whoever saw the Wimbledon final, I was just amazed at the quality of play from both players."
Becker appeared in three Rogers Cup events. He captured the title the first time he came to Canada in 1986 before reaching the semifinal the following year. He remains the only German man to have won Canada's biggest tennis tournament.
Becker enjoyed a brilliant 15-year career before retiring in 1999. He captured six Grand Slam singles titles (three at Wimbledon, two Australian Open titles and the U.S. Open), Olympic doubles gold at the '92 Barcelona Games, and two year-end ATP Tour World Championship crowns. In 1985 he became the youngest-ever Wimbledon winner at age 17, a record that still stands.
Overall, Becker captured 49 singles titles and 15 doubles crowns. He reached the World No. 1 ranking in 1991 and in '03 was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
And when Becker retired, he stopped playing tennis cold turkey.
"I didn't pick up a racket for two and a half years after I stopped," he said. "That's always difficult when you stop something you love so much and been doing for so long.
"Today, I probably enjoy tennis more because it's my hobby. I don't play every day anymore but I have some exhibitions and some senior tournaments so I do enjoy it a lot."
Becker's athleticism and never-die attitude on the court always made him a fan favourite wherever he went. Fans always admired his tenacity and the reckless abandon he often displayed in diving to reach volleys.
But Becker also made headlines off the court.
In 1993, he married Barbara Feltus, an actress and designer, and the couple had two children. Before the marriage, Becker and Feltus posed nude for the cover of Stern, with the photo being taken by Feltus' father.
However, the couple endured a very messy divorce in January 2001, with the pre-trial hearing broadcast live in Germany. Becker was granted a divorce Jan. 15, 2001 after reaching a US$14.4-million settlement and custody of Noah and Elias.
The following month, Becker admitted fathering a daughter, Anna, with Angela Ermakova in '99. He originally denied paternity but made the admission following a DNA test.
In 2002, Becker was convicted of tax evasion after admitting he lived in Germany from '91 to '93 while saying he resided in Monte Carlo. He was fined $500,000, put on two years probation and ordered to pay all court costs.
"You don't to be in the paper every day or on television every day," Becker said. "Germany doesn't have many other good tennis players or good sports stars so naturally I was in the spotlight."
As for this year's Roger's Cup, Becker expects Federer and Nadal to be the players to beat.
"Well, everybody playing is supposed to play here," he said. "Obviously our focus will be on Roger and Rafa and how they recover from the Wimbledon final.
"It will be exciting how both men recover and how others will come close and challenge them."